The tutor explores the two common styles of chess seen at high level.
I’ve read that Bobby Fischer was a positional player; I’ve also read his being a tactical player. Though a given player can exhibit both styles, they arise from different objectives.
Really, there are three (or more) styles of chess. Materialism is the style most beginners embrace: they try to keep their high value pieces and capture the opponent’s. To such a player, capturing the opponent’s queen is very important, and practically signifies a won game.
Players who continue at chess eventually realize that a minor, but well-placed piece, can be worth more than a poorly placed heavy piece. (Heavy pieces are the high-value ones: the rooks and queen.) Then, they begin to focus more on finding good squares for their own pieces, rather than on capturing the opponents’. As this shift in focus occurs, one can say that the player becomes either tactical or positional.
A tactical player tries to organize their pieces into a concentrated attack, usually against the opponent’s king. Sometimes, the tactical player will sacrifice a heavy piece to weaken the (opponent’s) king’s defenses. Then, less powerful pieces can be used to sustain the attack until checkmate. Tactical players are happy to sacrifice pieces to gain winning squares for other ones. After all, checkmate can be accomplished with a small fraction of the pieces if placed correctly.
The approach of a positional player is less dramatic: s/he focuses on preventing the opponent’s pieces from achieving good squares. The philosophy is that, if the opponent’s pieces are all forced to poor squares, those pieces can’t attack successfully. Positional players are commonly said to constrict their opponents into losing.
Anatoly Karpov, a former world champion, is a famous positional player; I’d say the world champion (as of 2014), Magnus Carlsen, is as well. Garry Kasparov, another former world champion, is a tactical player, as was Mikhail Tal. As I say: I’ve heard Fischer described as both. Having studied numerous of his games here, I can’t decide. I’d say he leans towards positional, but in a given game he can exhibit tactical style.
Interestingly, my experience is that computer chess engines can also be either positional or tactical. I play against 4 or 5 different ones; most seem more tactical than positional to me.
Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.